The impact of propionibacteria on the immune system was mainly studied regarding the cutaneous species, which display marked immunomodulatory properties (Roszkowski et al., 1990). Indeed, P. avidum KP-40, administered parenterally to mice, increase significantly mice thymocyte proliferation and peripheral blood lymphocytes and monocytes counts (Isenberg et al., 1995). Oral supplementation by the same strain furthermore counteracts the drop in lymphocytes counts triggered by anaerobic exercise in young male healthy sportives (Pottkamper et al., 1996). Such properties were thus sought in the dairy group of propionibacteria. A pioneer study in this field was undertaken with the species P. acidipropionici, orally administered to mice. The treatment resulted in an enhanced phagocytic activity of peritoneal macrophages activity, assessed using killed salmonella in a phagocytosis assay (Perez Chaia et al.,
1995). This is consistent with the activation of immunocompetent cells observed using other probiotics, when administered orally. P. freudenreichii, in a similar study, triggered a decrease in spontaneous basal proliferation activity of mice splenic lymphocytes (assessed ex vivo), yet an increase in both T-cell proliferation triggered by concanavalin A- and B-cell proliferation triggered by bacterial lipopolysaccharide (Kirjavainen et al., 1999). Another dairy species, P. jensenii, was orally administered to mice in order to evidence its immunostimulating effect. It was compared to cholera toxin during coadministration with soluble tuberculosis protein antigen to mice (Adams et al., 2005). The spleen lymphocytes proliferation observed following stimulation was significantly higher with P. jensenii than with the adjuvant cholera toxin.
These studies evidence some immunomodulatory properties in dairy propionibacteria. They suggest that these probiotics may be useful in therapeutical strategies and could replace the cutaneous propionibacteria used for immunomodulation in clinical trials (Kirjavainen et al., 1999). Furthermore, propionibacteria may have applications as living vaccine vector because of their immunostimulating properties (Adams et al., 2005).
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